Creation and planning of the Yaigojé Apaporis Indigenous Reserve and Natural National Park from an indigenous cosmovision

Fundación GAIA Amazonas
Published: 03 October 2017
Last edited: 25 July 2018
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Seven indigenous peoples make up the Yaigojé Apaporis Indigenous Reserve in an area of ​​great cultural diversity in the Colombian Amazon. Due to the fact that mining activities jeopardize its complex of sacred sites, the Indigenous Traditional Authorities requested the Colombian National Natural Parks  (PNNC) to create a protected area overlapping the Reserve. In this contexts, the GAIA Amazonas Foundation developed a methodology for the indigenous communities themselves to manage the creation, planning, and zoning of the Yaigojé Apaporis Indigenous Reserve and Natural National Park.


South America
Scale of implementation
Freshwater ecosystems
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Other ecosystem
Tropical Rainforest
Indigenous people
Protected area governance
Protected area management planning
Traditional knowledge
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 18: Traditional knowledge


Yaigoje Apaporis, Colombia
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The seven indigenous peoples that comprise the Yaigojé Apaporis area form a unified cultural cluster that shares various elements, such as the traditional rituals performed in a complex of sacred sites. However, the external pressure of mining operations in their indigenous territory threatens their sacred sites, their natural environment, and culture. Seeing their limitations in facing these threats, the communities recognized the need of asking the support of the PNNC to protect their territory through the creation of a National Protected Area, which is a legal framework that guarantees the exclusion of sector development activities, in their particular case: mining operations. This initiative presented several challenges. Among them, being able to maintain their cultural values and indigenous cosmovision, promoting the use of traditional shamanic knowledge of their communities in the planning and zoning processes, and building mechanisms for participation and local dialog.


The seven main indigenous peoples in the area belong to the Macuna, Tanimuka, Letuama, Cabiyarí, Yauna, Barazano, and Yujup Macú groups, and have an approximate population of 1,536 people spread in 19 communities.

How do the building blocks interact?

The creation of the protected area by indigenous request and with the support of the National Government was achieved in the context of a process of free and informed previous consultation, and the establishment of special management agreements between the Government and the indigenous authorities, for the area's governance. Two key factors ensure that the planning process was founded on the indigenous cosmovision. First, the existence of the Special Management Regime (REM), which is a legal framework that maintains the inalienability of indigenous territories when they are categorized as a Natural National Park. Second, the formal acknowledgment of their cultural values in the Park’s creation objectives. To this end, the GAIA Amazonas Foundation led the development of a proper and adequate methodology that became a fundamental input for the indigenous organizations (as public authorities) together with the PNNC (as the environmental authority) to set the guidelines and build the REM according to the cultural and environmental features of Yaigojé Apaporis Reserve.


  • The process of creating the protected area and designing its Special Management Regime (REM) was based on the principles of social participation and collective construction between the PNNC, the Indigenous Authorities and the Yaigojé Apaporis Reserve Captains.
  • The public function of conservation and environmental management in the area was coordinated, based on the cultural systems of regulation and management of the territory of indigenous peoples.
  • Through a process of free and informed previous consultation, agreements were established between the Government and the Indigenous Authorities so that the area management is based on traditional knowledge and respecting their autonomy and rights over their communal lands, their sacred sites, and cultural values.
  • Through the creation of the National Park, the Yaigojé Apaporis Indigenous Captains Association (ACIYA) protected over a million hectares of tropical rainforest, and arranged with the government a model of environmental management based on their traditional knowledge.
  • The application of an endogenous research methodology in the design of the REM enabled the rescue of ancestral values, stimulated the participation of young people, increased connection between the PNNC personnel and the indigenous people, and an understanding of the biological and cultural values of the area to generate management strategies.


Fundación GAIA Amazonas

“GAIA has been working with the indigenous people of the Amazon for 25 to 30 years, and among them, with the inhabitants of the Apaporis Indigenous Reserve. Our first bet, during the 1980’s, was to achieve legal recognition as an indigenous reserve. After that, we moved on to strengthen the organizational and governmental systems, which helped decentralize the delivery of basic services such as education and healthcare, always under a cultural, environmental, and territorial point of view.

When the mining threat was identified in 2007-2008, for mining titles requests by a Canadian company, we began working with the indigenous population to create joint strategies for the conservation of their territory. It was seen that the creation of a natural park would not only protect its territory and subsoil, but an exercise of coordination with Colombian Natural National Parks, would strengthen the existing management systems of those territories. This latter goal was achieved through the recognition of indigenous people as Environmental Authority. But in addition to work on the legal protection of the territory, we also strengthened the processes of local or endogenous research. This clearly shows an articulation between the young leaders and the traditional knowledge of the indigenous peoples who inhabit this territory.

It is important to point out that this is not just a bet on the creation of a national park, but also in the context of a bio-cultural macro-territory where we have found complementarities with other organizations and indigenous communities with whom we worked in the comprehensive management of their territory. For this reason, we sought to find complementarities from an environmental, ecosystemic, and cultural viewpoint in the territories where we work.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that our work translates into a successful exercise of relationship and coordination among the indigenous peoples recognized as Environmental Authority, National Parks of Colombia and the accompaniment of an NGO that has persisted and has been constant over the years, and has built strong trust with indigenous peoples and with the government authorities. This has allowed us to reach a level of articulation and complementarity with the cultural viewpoint of the territory, so that it will land in planning and management instruments suited to Western culture, providing a harmonious and constructive accompaniment.”

Contributed by

Martín von Hildebrand Fundación GAIA Amazonas


GAIA Amazonas Foundation
GAIA Amazonas Foundation